Principal, St. Catherine of Alexandria School, Riverside
An excited second grader ran to me across the lunch quad. In each hand she held treasures just made in our Santa’s Workshop. She not only wanted to show me her ornament for mom and dad, but she was equally excited at the Christmas card she made. This little girl had lost her grandfather the year before, and she was excited about making a card for somebody else’s grandpa who didn’t have grandchildren of his own. This was a new idea this year, to make a project for parents and then a card for an elder shut-in at one of our local retirement centers. Judging by the grin, the idea was a hit. I was personally pleased that she was so excited at helping those who needed her and the love a child’s card would bring.
That Saturday, I brought my mother to St. Catherine’s to show her how our mobile free health clinic worked. We walked around the huge modified mobile-home, and I introduced her to two of the nurses as she was a retired ER nurse herself. They smiled and we walked away slowly as one of the doctors came out. His shift was over, and as he walked past, I thanked him for his service (he drove in each weekend from
). He mentioned that today he saw a diabetic with some significant problems and was glad the man came in. I thanked him again, and reminded him that he was saving lives – thank you! He paused to make a joke, we smiled, and he departed. Orange
I walked away with my mother in silent joy. My school had worked in tandem with the parish in setting up the mobile Lestonnac Free Clinic a few months prior, and I was thrilled that so many people without health insurance were being helped in vital ways. It was gratifying to know that we had volunteers (though we still need more volunteer doctors) who came together between our parish and our campus to bring hope and real healing to the lives of those in need. There was no politics in it, no proselytizing, not even real social justice; just freely offered love on Christ’s behalf just as described by our Holy Father (cf. Deus Caritas Est 31). It echoed our diocesan impact statement filling one soul at a time with hope.
At the same time, the prior day’s encounter with that little second grade girl filled me with even more joy than that doctor had. She was only seven, and she got it. The ministry of Christ is reaching out to make people feel better, even people we don’t know – and that brings joy to ourselves. Our Catholic schools educate our children academically better than any other system on earth. But the most important part of our curriculum was best taught this year at St. Catherine’s in a little workshop where children fill lives with the hope of Christmas, and a promise to grow up knowing that helping others is a joyful way to celebrate Advent.